Textbook Organization

14 Adapting or Authoring

In creating Fundamentals of Business (CC BY NC SA) the faculty author choose to start with an existing openly licensed textbook instead of starting from scratch. From start to finish the process took about 14 months of part time work by various team members. While we had a team, plan, roles, and workflows in place, the process was a bit like remodeling a house — many tasks were more complex and required more time and effort than we had anticipated. — Anita R. Walz, Open Education, Copyright & Scholarly Communications Librarian, Virginia Tech Libraries

In choosing to write a book you have a blank slate of opportunity, but sometimes opportunity means not re-inventing the wheel. There may be resources or books that exist that will suit your needs entirely, or will be close to what you need. After having discussed what the ideal structure of your book looks like, and what elements you would like to see within it, the next step is to evaluate the books and resources that have already been created. Can you use all or some of these materials? How much modification will be necessary to suit the goals of your project?

Common elements to evaluate when considering instructional resources include:

  • Organizational features: Is the book structured in a useful manner? Are materials consistent and well organized? Is the information current?
  • Student Engagement: Do the materials encourage students to think critically of the materials? Do the materials clearly present content?
  • Content Balance: Is text interspersed with maps, graphs and images? Does content provide tangible real-life applications or case studies?
  • Inclusion Elements: Do the materials reflect equity and diversity in their examples and other content?
  • Alignment: Does the content align well or at all with district curriculum and standards?
  • Legal: Is the material openly licensed? Can it be modified or simply cited?

Remember, this evaluation process isn’t quite the same as choosing to adopt a textbook. Most standard textbooks are not open and full use would require payment. You are looking for books or content that are already open and will allow you to modify.

For each resource, book or otherwise, evaluate it for instructional effectiveness. A good idea is to imagine how you might use the resource in the classroom and ask a very simple question – “How would I teach using this?”